Internationally, stone conservators have been engaged to provide conservation strategies and treatments of major cultural sites around the world for the last 40 years. Distance and lack of available training has seen Australia and New Zealand lag behind this trend.
Consequently the presence of trained material conservators in heritage conservation has not been on par with the overseas experience, and the research into locally sourced stone is limited. This presents problems for conservators working on heritage sites in Australia and New Zealand as little is known about local stones and the deterioration factors that they undergo.
Stone conservators have an important role to play in the future of Australian and New Zealand cultural heritage, and this will be illustrated through the case study of the William Williams House Ruins in Paihia, New Zealand. The William Williams House Ruins is considered to be the oldest European stone building in New Zealand, and is constructed of locally sourced greywacke, a stone that is very soft and has a propensity to deteriorate. It is at risk of complete deterioration in the next decade if remediation steps are not undertaken immediately to arrest the decay. The site requires a conservation plan and treatment strategy to manage its deterioration. Cultural heritage sites throughout Australia and New Zealand will ultimately benefit in the future from the knowledge and skills that trained stone conservators can bring.